Real Madrid Tactics: Zidane’s Unbalanced Squad

Real Madrid Tactics: Zidane’s Unbalanced Squad

Real Madrid won three Champions Leagues in
a row between 2015-16 and 2017-18 but were put out in the Round of 16 last season by
eventual semi-finalists Ajax. Coach Santiago Solari departed and Zinedine Zidane returned
to try to guide Los Blancos back to another European title, aided by significant summer
spending that saw the arrivals of Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Ferland Mendy, and Brazilian prospects
Eder Militao and Rodrygo. The average age of all Real Madrid’s summer arrivals is
just 22.4 years old, including the Japanese 18 year old Takefusa Kubo, showing an awareness
perhaps that now is the time for a rebuild. As these stats from OneFootball show, though,
it’s some Real old hands who have so far been important for Zidane’s side in La Liga,
with Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema weighing in with goals for the Madrid side. Zidane’s often been criticised for a lack
of tactical nous, relying on his man management skills and some in-game adjustments to get
the best from his expensively assembled squad. So far this season, Zidane has used a 4-4-2
and forms of a 4-3-3 or 4-1-4-1, whereby one midfielder sits and two wide players push
up; the degree of attacking intent determines how one might view the formation. While Bale and Benzema have performed reasonably
well this season, Zidane has yet to work out his best team and his best set-up; the injury
to Eden Hazard has not helped, but Zidane’s selections and approach do suggest someone
still getting to grips with how his squad should play. Madrid’s squad is large but
unbalanced – in midfield, for example, there’s James Rodriguez, Modric, Kroos, Isco, Asensio,
and Valverde, but only Casemiro is a genuine defensive midfielder – too many attacking
players, not enough defensive cover. Real, for all their individual quality, have significant
issues. The first is their defensive positioning,
and the attacking intent of the full backs. Zidane likes his teams to push high and look
for crossing opportunities from overlaps. While Ferland Mendy looked good against Villareal,
the aggressive nature of Real’s full backs leaves significant gaps in behind, requiring
Casemiro or one of the centre-backs to cover over in the event of a loss of possession
– this in turn leaves gaps elsewhere. In addition, while Real sought to solve this
by, at times, leaving one full back deeper to make a sort of three man defence, this
meant that either the wide player of the 4-4-2 was left very isolated, or Real’s midfield
was stretched and insufficiently compact. A lot of teams play with high full backs who
attack or engage in pressing, but Real seem to find it strangely difficult to get right
in the defensive phase and this means they can be exposed by direct balls in to the wide
channels. In addition to this, Real are encouraged to
play a high line generally, and to press quick assertively especially in the opponent’s
half. However, this can look disjointed and it’s noticeable that, against Villareal
for example, large gaps appeared in central midfield as Real players pressed high but
without support; Casemiro, as the lone defensive midfielder in a two man midfield struggled
as his teammates failed to defend sensibly, and Real left easy passing lanes open to the
opposition. This was partly because Real’s two wide
midfielders in the 4-4-2 offered little defensive cover, and the 4-3-3 should deliver more solidity
as Real can fall back into a 4-5-1 or 4-1-4-1; however, the natural instinct of the full
backs to press high either means that Real bunch players up out wide, or the wide midfielders
also push high – both still leave gaps in behind. Zidane needs to find his team’s
balance between defence and attack in the wide areas – so far he’s struggled. Attacking, on the other hand, shouldn’t
be an problem for Real – they have a surfeit of talent going forwards and creative passers
like Kroos and Modric to service them. However, there are some issues here too. Benzema, whose natural instinct is to drop
off, link play, and facilitate the inside forwards pushing ahead of him in a 4-3-3,
should work well with Jovic as a pair of strikers in a 4-4-2. But against Villareal, Jovic often
dropped off too, partly because the wide players pushed high and, with Casemiro dropping deeper,
that isolated Kroos and left him with few options. Because Real also like to cross, even with
Benzema as a sole striker, too often there are insufficient numbers getting forwards
to meet the crosses. The wide players tend to stay wide – partly because Real also
like to overload a flank and keep the other man wide for a switch into space – and partly
because, especially with a two man midfield of Kroos and Casemiro, neither player is likely
to surge forwards. Real look best when players like Bale and Vinicius are running in behind
onto through balls, but too often, this is not what’s happening. Real Madrid have issues. There’s a huge
amount of individual quality in the squad which is often enough to get them out of a
hole in La Liga, but against top European opposition, the lack of a plan that plays
to their strengths and defensive weaknesses in positioning and pressing will be problematic.
Zidane has a tactical struggle on his hands to get things right.

100 thoughts on “Real Madrid Tactics: Zidane’s Unbalanced Squad

  1. They needed 2 midfielders a young kid type player maybe and like a pogba or erikson to replace modric and also jovic wasn’t the best signing and they should have gone for someone else

  2. Can't blame but himself.. sold llorente to atletico after he said to him i am not going to count on you
    Did the same with ceballos
    I think zidane did wonders with madrid at champions league .. but he wasn't the right man for coming back to madrid .. did odd transfers and had problems with bale and james
    Jovic not getting playtime
    And the way he ignore mariano man !!!
    Being stubborn ethier pogba or no one is just stupid from him

  3. Zidane is the true bald fraud. Wins 3 UCLs out of luck, having a ridiculously talented team and poor refereering decisions. He will get found out this season.

  4. I laughed so hard when I heard rumours that Zidane wants Pogba, Van de beek, Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes but not a defensive midfielder. Tragedy was clear since then

  5. Hopefully some teams will teach Real and Zidane a footballing lesson like Ajax did last season. Banking on individual brilliance while letting other talents rot on the bench is such a waste.

  6. As much as I love Tifo, there is so much wrong with this video.

    First Valerde is more defensive midfielder, you can argue that he isn't good enough, but ignoring him and showing Casemiro as only defensive minded midfielder is just misrepresentation.

    Second thing is system with high fullbacks and "only one DM" – usually Kroos or Modrić is not that high pushed as you say, and just watch sometime how Ramos covers Marcelo position, you maybe understand something. It's kinda funny cause that "unbalance" was a thing during 2016-18 and 3 UCL and LL victiories. It's like you waited all this time to point that is wrong, cause 2/2/0 record finally is not spectacular and you cannot really critise a winning team, so after so many years and thropies you can say "it's wrong" xD

    Funny thing that "overpushing offencive players high" it's also fits into Guardiola sides, but I never saw him getting shots that he is "unbalanced" even if he has a record of spectacular losses in Bayern and City like 1:4 againts Wolfsburg. And all he done to deal with it is tactical fouls, City make 74% fouls on opponents half and thay make a lots of them – if you convert how much time with the ball City opponent have and how many folus CIty produce, you'll know that they are one of most aggresive sides in BPL, fouling just when they lose the ball.

    Even more funnier is that that RM lost most of their goals in this season due individual errors, for exampe Villareal had like 2 occasions during 90mins, one of huge Ramos flop, and just scored both of them, but you present like all opponents have so many chances from couterattacing which is not true xD Well, I guess RM players have to learn from Guardiola that they should foul more often. xD

    Third thing is "Zidane bad tactitian relying on man managment to get job done, wich is enough for a liga" well isn't he won 3 UCL? You saw him winning? You saw his tactical battle against Emery in firts match? You saw his cool-minded changes against Juve in rematch? You ever heard of low crosses that was used against Juve in final(modrić interview, and watch 1st and 3rd goals)? There are so many proofs that Zidane does his homework especially in UCL. Thing is that additude is often problem in LL. This can be saw only by someone that watches RM regulary, and you clearly aren't, but usually Zidane Real 16-18 had litte motivation issues. IN UCL there was no problem, RM players just want to slay their opponennts as soon wistle goes off, only minor problems when their was far ahead like against Atleti or Juventus and thought it's over. In LL on the other hand RM side often struggle with showing that strong mental, oftlen they played whidout really that UCL high motivation, kida waitnh for match to win itself(and often it did, sice there is so much quality in this team). Honestly I think that Zidane style of cooling down pressure is worked well in UCL, but little struggle in LL, cause some players need to be pressued before LL match, not cool down 😉 but still, he got better on evryone in 15-16(almost close huge gap) he got better 16-17, he got worse 17-18 but much of that was cause of finishing issue(watch xG results, it was insane). Still good record.

    And best part is RM currently has issues, but you really did not touch one of them. First is Courtiois, overrated GK that really did not fit into defence RM. He' poor on one-one situation(again xG) and really good in air, in using his reach. That worked great in atleti, since thet defend low, and not make many opportunites for opponents to exploit and have one-one, while often push opponents attack into side and force them to rely on crosses. RM do not do that, RM pushes high, which can be punished in someone make mistake, can lead to one-one. And Courtois can do notting, sice he is to cluncy to be good in one-one. On the other hand his qualities, a dominating a penalty box is not that really needed, sice Ramos and Varane alread are dominating air and RM side is best in LL in air duels. MATS saved for FCB like 20 goals in last two seasons(according again to xG) while RM cannot expect that level from thair goalkeeper.

    Another issue is Modrić age, which was a problem last season, he's to od to play everything, and fact that RM found no one to replace him(Pogba from world cup would be perfect) might haunt them. Sure, there is James and Isco, but their was never on this level, well, James played well against levante, so maybe…

    Also I think Reguillon was plaing well and for me whole Mendy case was waste of time, and Vinicius still has lot to improve. And for ages there is in RM injury problem, already in this season RM have hospital, and this is every season for years now.

    So I think you are not right this time, and I think I have right to say that, I think I made my points even if my english is far from perfect xD and I have request – do not call my salty madritas, cause I do not agreeing with you(when I saw that heart under comment of "bad and salty Madrid fanbase I kinda what to shot myself). Obiovosly you have every right to critisie Zidane even if he won so much, and I thing on this same basic, I can critisie you when I think your conclusions are incorrect and info is misrepresenting, and that almost 600k subs are woth pretty much like Zidane thropies, so not that much, and do not give you "license to truth". IMO you can do better that you done with this video.

  7. tbh, I think he's doing great, as when you're managing a team of this calibre, man management is what wins you games, look no further than Tuchel's PSG, the man is a fantastic tactician and the games against Liverpool (home) and Man United (away) showcase that, HOWEVER, when it comes down to man management, the man has no real voice in the dressing room, like what happened against Man United at their fucking home, and against Rennes in the fucking final of the french cup.

  8. Feels like a team with traits that still favour CR7 (crossing and 2 strikers). They seem to have players like Bale, Hazard and Vinicius (plus the defensive signings) who can help them. But they aren’t being used as they should (as seen in video) and Zidane’s trust in the older heads seems like an unwillingness to risk the young players and embrace the future. Hazard is a weird one, a signing to win now but what this team needs is a transition (like what ironically Chelsea are doing). Hazard will make the fans expect huge, so a rebuild with 3-4th place finishes will not be tolerated (board or fans). Unless Zidane gets time to rebuild properly and make mistakes, this could get messy and disjointed. Barca are showing holes and if they make mistakes, Madrid should be ready but at this point Atlético are the better side to do that

  9. @Tifo Football
    Completely disagree on assessment of Casemiro's current role. Casemiro was in fact the more offensive of the two midfielders and Kroos covers most of the gaps. Not to sound pretentious, but you should rewatch the games and focus on his movement. It is no coincidence that he scored vs Levante and his header was one of the most dangerous chances in one of the previous games.

  10. The issue is Modric ageing out. His defensive output has actually been quite high during his time at Real. However, his decline in speed has made defending much harder for him, as evidenced by his red card at the start of the season.

    I think Ceballos can ably replace him, either in the three with Casemiro and Kroos as the immobile playmaker, or in a two with Casemiro, and relying either on himself or the wide players for more creativity.

  11. Easy solve – play a 5-1-3-1, my fave formation.
    Central defender of the 3 acts as a part-time sweeper, Casemiro in that CDM role can drop back to form a diamond for passing or into the flat line if need be or push up and have that 3 CB cover. This makes it easy to play out from the back.
    The two wingbacks go up and down the line, but look to play the ball inside to the core central attackers.
    In front of Casemiro is a flat 3, a central playmaker in the middle with wing-midfielders on either side i.e. shot-creators (via goals or assists) that push ahead, e.g. Hazard or Bale. Someone like Isco or James can play central.
    Then, the lone striker up top, basically a goalhanger that has support from the 3 behind him, that can either receive balls from them and score or turn and play the wider 2 in for goals.

    Odriozola – Militao – Ramos – Varane – Mendy
    Bale – James – Hazard

  12. Lmao liverpool and klopp will outclass madrid this season. Real madrid better wale up before we're the new a.c milan and man u.😔😏

  13. In my opinion, Isco should have left this summer. I can't see him getting much playing time and he's in his prime. He would do very well in Italy

  14. Zidane can't coach an elite team as RM, his successes were only because of Ronaldo. He has no playing approach, just throwing 11 players to the ground and watches them from the sideline.
    Solari was better than him. Real should think of a new coach, Klopp would be nice.

  15. Casemiro is only dm in squad who can balance defence and dude sometimes goes up like and striker. And last game zizou subbed casemiro for hazard and player lucas in casemiro’s place which almost cost us the game

  16. Zidane won us 3 Champions Leagues in 2 and a half year, but he is not a great coach like Klopp and Pochettino. Why would you sell talented CDM like Marcos Llorente to your league rival when you don't have any back-up for Casemiro? If he gets injured, our midfield will fell off. This is just one of potential problems. Tifo explained all of them well in the video. Thanks !!

  17. We do have an unbalance in midfield, I honestly would put Militão and Casemiro as defensive midfielders to see how something like that would work out in a 4-2-3-1, with Bale and Hazard occupying the wings, modric as a CAM and Benzema as the striker.

  18. Not to mention, we allowed 3 midfielders who were young, skilled, and pacey to leave the club in hopes we could land Pogba and he would be the midfield savior. People can rant about Llorente, Kovacic, and Ceballos all they want, but those 3 were earmarked as the future of midfield in a 4-3-3 and to let them all go, especially in the same window without replacements, was ridiculously stupid.

  19. They bought the wrong players this year, they needed to buy a left back who has good defensive ability and high work rate but got a mini Marcelo instead. Modric & Kroos don't look the same anymore, whether its burn out or lack of motivation from their success its clear that they are not the same anymore, these two were once the best midfielders in Europe that were vital to Madrid winning three champions league titles in a row. These two needed replacing to keep the squad fresh and hungry, this was why Zidane wanted Pogba to inject energy into the midfield.

  20. this video got it wrong. Zidane lost titles only to small teams during his time in Madrid.
    on the other hand, he won almost every big game he had during his spell at the team…
    Madrid have one problem and that's the lack of a world-class striker. Benzema isnt in the level of Suarez, Lewa, Aguero, Mane, Firmino, Ronaldo, Costa… at best hes in the Lukaku, Icardi, Higuain level

  21. Madrid fan here, knew this video was coming, even the goals concede against levante are so sloppy, and the entire second half, madrid played conservatively with back passes and side passes to avoid the oppposition press instead of bypassing it (so much fear at home against a side like levante doesnt depict anything good happening in the future)

  22. Meh. Zidane's squads always had issues somewhere, yet they still won the UCL 3 times on the trot. For all your condescending conclusion about his squad having enough individual quality to bail them in La Liga but may face issues against top European opposition, that's what people always said about RM but funny how as of now he has only won 1 league title yet has never failed to win a CL when in running

  23. Meh the young players isn't what real Madrid is about its about buying galacticos best players in the world is why real has always been popular

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